Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Not famous? So what! Hire your own paparazzi

Kaiama GloverKaiama Glover wanders Tribeca in this paparazzi-style photograph. Regular people are now hiring photographers to take such photos.

Special to Newsday
April 23, 2008

On a recent Wednesday afternoon, photographer Izaz Rony waited across the street from an office building on Chambers Street in Manhattan. As he sat on a bench eating a late breakfast, a visibly pregnant young woman wearing a black-and-white striped dress walked out the door, exactly on schedule.

Rony jumped up and ran down the block, snapping photos of her as she walked toward him. Trying to blend into the crowd, he followed her - to the grocery store, then the dry cleaner, through an outdoor market and down to South Street Seaport - taking pictures the entire time. She appeared natural and beautiful in the photos, exactly what she wanted.

Rony was hired to take these pictures by his subject, Kaiama Glover, a 35-year-old professor at Barnard College. And he's been hired by many others like her - mostly female New Yorkers in their early 20s to late 40s - who are looking for paparazzi-inspired photographs of themselves captured as they go about their daily lives.

"It could be a horrible, invasive thing, like a stalker," says Glover, who gave birth to a baby girl, Salone, on April 11. "But instead he is really capturing you as you are."

And Rony, 23, isn't alone in providing such services.

Google "paparazzi for hire" and you'll see a host of results from companies such as Celeb-4-A-Day, which allows you to hire your own temporary entourage, including photographers, publicists and bodyguards. It's a culture that might be explained by a society smitten with celebrity magazines and blogs that are fueled by paparazzi shots of Britney, J. Lo and other Hollywood A-listers. Perhaps this type of image is what non-celebrities now equate as a symbol of beauty and status.

"We all have an image to protect nowadays," says Rony, citing social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook as driving forces in this new industry. "Someone needs to polish that image."

But polishing one's image is not cheap. Rony's services start at $600 for a full photo shoot plus consultations.

Despite the price, Wantagh native Janet Shelley, a 37-year-old project manager at a historic restoration firm, says she plans to book Rony once the weather gets warmer, having read about MethodIzaz on DailyCandy, an e-mail newsletter sent to almost 400,000 New York subscribers every day. She'll enlist him to capture her at work in Manhattan - perched on scaffolding 20 stories tall, from which he'll attempt to shoot her with a Canon SLR camera. The photos, she says, won't go online. Instead they'll be given to her grandmother in Wantagh to show her how she makes a living.

"My clients know that they want to capture something that is important to them, to leave a memory of who they are and what they stand for," says Rony.

Another soon-to-be client, Kristin Savage of Riverhead, will hire Rony this summer. She'll send him her schedule for an entire week, which includes stops in Riverhead and the North Fork for her work as an appraiser. He'll show up unannounced and start shooting, hopefully capturing more animation when she's unaware she's being photographed. The images, Savage says, are mostly for her personal use, but may go into her portfolio or on her social networking sites.

"He's put being a paparazzi in a new light," says Savage, 23. The photos "aren't necessarily candid, but they're more natural. It's everyday life."

Calling star-like attention to yourself

Long Islanders dreaming about having their own moment on the red carpet will soon be able to pay for a celebrity-like paparazzi encounter - complete with flashing cameras, publicists, bodyguards and coverage in tabloid magazines.

Celeb-4-A-Day, a company operating in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, says it's coming to New York City in six months. For $250-$1,500, clients will be able to get the royal celeb treatment.

"Everyone likes a little bit of attention and to feel special," says founder Tania Cowher. "Everyday people should get just as much attention, if not more, than celebrities."

Among the offerings:

"The A-List" ($250) - Four paparazzi photographers trailing the subject for half an hour snapping photos and shouting questions (subjects fill out a questionnaire ahead of time about their hobbies, occupation and interests). Includes an 8-by-10 print of a faux magazine cover with realistic headlines.

"The Megastar" ($1,500) - Six paparazzi photographers, plus a publicist and a bodyguard for up to two hours. Optional limousine service, plus a faux magazine cover and CD with images.

Everything can be customized. The "paparazzi," "publicists" and "bodyguards," who are either amateur or professional photographers, never go out of character. They wear press passes and dress accordingly. Details at celeb4aday.com.